Though attendance seems to indicate that not many people in Miami will miss Sun Life Stadium after the Marlins move into a new ballpark for the 2012 season, the venue will always have a place in Roy Halladay's memory.
Halladay returns to the location of his perfect game one last time this afternoon when the Philadelphia Phillies play their final game at Florida's home park in the finale of a three-game series.
A series of rainouts last weekend in Philadelphia means that these two National League East rivals will conclude their season series in the City of Brotherly Love with a doubleheader on Sept. 15, but today marks the final meeting between the teams in Florida this year. Following yet another season of non-playoff baseball, the Marlins will move to a new ballpark next year while officially changing their name to the Miami Marlins.
Attendance has usually been in the low figures for Marlins games -- they enter Sunday last in the majors in average attendance at 18,453 per home contest -- but those who came to a game between these teams on May 29 of last year witnessed Halladay throwing the 20th perfect game in MLB history. The right- hander was quick to give credit to the fans at Sun Life Stadium following his historic outing.
"It's awesome. To be on the road and have fans -- baseball fans -- that into the game, it's special," said Halladay. "It makes it definitely more memorable. It's something you never think about. It's hard to explain. It's something you don't ever try and go out and do, but it's a great feeling."
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is in the midst of another stellar campaign, going 16-5 with a 2.47 earned run average through 27 starts. Poor weather has plagued him as of late, but he showed little rust despite eight days of rest on Tuesday in Cincinnati. Halladay threw seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball, striking out nine in a 9-0 victory.
The 34-year-old struggled the last time he faced the Marlins, however, allowing four runs over seven innings, and he is 4-3 lifetime versus the club with a 2.47 ERA.
Halladay will be looking to secure a series win for the Phillies after the Marlins blasted their way to an 8-4 victory last night on the strength of five home runs. Gaby Sanchez hit a go-ahead three-run shot during a five-run eighth inning, and Mike Cameron followed with his second homer of the night to help his club snap a three-game slide.
"We've struggled, but it's just one of those things where we have to get over it," said Sanchez. "I was lucky enough to get a pitch to do something with."
Phillies starter Cole Hamels left the game with a one-run lead and knocked in a pair of runs during his seven-inning start before the Marlins completed their rally off the bullpen.
"You don't want to make the mistakes like I did because every mistake I made was a homer," Hamels said. "It's tough, especially when you're only up by a little bit. I knew because the game was close I had to keep plugging away and make good pitches."
Despite having a five-game winning streak end, Philadelphia still leads Atlanta by 8 1/2 games for first place in the NL East. The Phils are also still 10-5 versus Florida this season.
The Marlins counter today with Anibal Sanchez, who picked up his first victory in over two months on Aug. 16 at Colorado, but is winless in two starts since.
The right-hander got a no-decision at San Diego on Aug. 21, then dropped a decision to the Mets on Monday after having his scheduled weekend contest versus the Phillies postponed. Sanchez allowed a pair of runs over six innings on seven hits and four walks at New York in a 2-1 loss.
"I think the worst part is I threw a lot of pitches," said Sanchez, who threw 117.
The 27-year-old is 7-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 27 starts this season and has not gotten a decision in three starts versus the Phillies this year despite a 4.76 ERA. He has allowed homers to John Mayberry Jr., Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco in that span as well as three RBI to Raul Ibanez.